I hope you have a trusty controller handy, one that has all of the face buttons in good working order. You will need it with Deep Silver’s latest entry in the Sacred Universe, Sacred Citadel. A departure of sorts, Sacred Citadel is different than other games in the series. It is a brawler at its very core, one that features stat progression and customizable equipment. Oh, and local and online cooperative play. Sounds like a gem, right? Unfortunately, there are a few gameplay quirks and staying power issues with Sacred Citadel that prevent it from being the powerhouse it could have been.
Sacred Citadel is a brawler in the purest sense. Throughout the game, you will mash your controller fervently in order to tackle the minions you come across. As you do so, you will gain experience, gold, and loot. Experience can be used to level up your character in any manner you see fit. The characters in the game are all available from the start, and include the warrior, mage, ranger, and shaman. While they all use the same base equipment (weapons and armor), they differ in the type of secondary weapon they can equip. Weapons are pretty basic, and have a raw number component along with an elemental one. Green numbers flash on the screen when comparing equipment and it is very easy for the player to see what the best piece is.
As you level up, and gain better equipment and become stronger in the process. You will also learn a few new moves to add to your arsenal. While you will need to use a combination of two attack buttons and the face buttons to perform your combos, the action never becomes too difficult. You will play through act one of the game, and probably think to yourself that this game is pretty awesome. Unfortunately, once you have reached a certain point in the game early on, the fun factor starts to decline fast. The visuals portray a different landscape for each of the game’s five acts, but there is this overall feeling of sameness that permeates the game. It probably doesn’t help the fact that enemies quickly become giant punching bags. You may think at first that you are simply under-leveled for a particular zone, but then you may find that the enemies are hardly chipping away at your health as well. When played properly, it simply takes far too long to destroy regular enemies. Bosses are an exercise in patience. It takes far to long to whittle away their seemingly static health bar.
Of course, much could be overlooked if Sacred Citadel provided a compelling cooperative experience. This is true to an extent, and that is apparent during local cooperative play. Being a fan of the genre, there is something quite satisfying about playing a good old fashioned brawler with a friend on the same screen. Plenty of laughter and deaths will be had during the course of the game. It is long enough to last a few gaming sessions with your friends, but oddly enough, only three people can play at a time. Quite a strange decision when there are four playable characters. Players will receive the same loot, so it is up to you on how you want to best divvy up the spoils of war. Players do possess their own stash of gold, so town business can be handled in private transactions. Enemies will not scale to the number of people in your party, sadly. The difficulty of the game, like that in the single player mode, is pretty static. But it can still be an entertaining, albeit short romp. Online cooperative play is identical to local play except it can be a bit laggy and quirky. When tested out online, there was occasional lag that resulted in teleporting allies across screen and at least one level-halting bug that prevented my partner from continuing the level. Perhaps it was also due to lag, but the netcode as a whole seemed a bit wonky.
Sacred Citadel is a frustrating game. It is so frustrating because on paper, it has all of the elements that a great brawler should have. It is fast-paced, has a stat-progression system, customizable equipment, and classes. Sadly, once you beat the game, there is almost no incentive to go back with your leveled character. The only reason to start another play through is to test out a new character, but they are all so similar there isn’t much of a point at all. In order to be a great game, something needed to be added in order to hook and give an incentive to the player. It is simply not present in the game. While cooperative play can be fun, it suffers the same problems in the end.
An XBLA version of the game was provided by the publisher for this review.